Welcome to Sunshine and Stilettos — a blog about exploring the world through culture, nature and sustainable tourism, and embracing the life-changing impact of connecting with others around the world.
My name is Lebawit* – but everyone calls me Lily.
I’m an award-winning travel writer, photographer
and multimedia storyteller.
As a third-culture kid and an Ethiopian-American, living abroad from a young age — adapting to new countries, cultures and languages — has shaped my entire life. I’ve studied on three continents, experienced three educational systems and speak four languages fluently since age 14 — including Amharic, French and Spanish.
For the past ten years — since making the leap from practicing corporate law in Washington DC to travel journalism and photography — I’ve explored the Caribbean region solo, through culture and nature, as well as a handful of other countries. I’ve lived in and researched destinations for months at at time, from rural Belize to mountainous villages in the Dominican Republic and remote Maroon communities in Jamaica, all while photographing and writing about it for publications and brands.
My initial mission was to show others how to explore beyond the surface in a region that’s otherwise known for mass tourism — to inspire my readers to dig deep and participate in immersive experiences beyond the beach. My passion for cultural, community and nature tourism continues today. I’m obsessed with showing visitors how travel can be a force for good — in great part, it’s an opportunity for the privileged to tip the scale of imbalance in the world, and make a positive impact with their travel dollars.
In sharing my passion for documenting cultural immersion and sustainable travel, I’ve had my work published in digital and print publications such as CNN Travel, New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine, DeltaSky, MorningCalm Magazine (Korean Air), BBC Travel, AFAR and Every Day With Rachael Ray, among others.
In 2016, I received the Marcia Vickery-Wallace Award for Excellence in Travel Journalism from the Caribbean Tourism Organization. Since 2012, I’m the author of three guidebooks on Belize and the Dominican Republic for Moon Travel Guides (Hachette Books), focusing on independent travel.
Thanks to my combined experience creating content for the past 11 years, I also specialize in content marketing and strategy. My most recent clients include Go Dominican Republic and Belize Tourism Industry Association. I’m also the chief editor of Destination Belize Magazine since 2016, Belize’s #1 tourism publication.
And if you still want to know more about me, check out this media spotlight page.
WHY STICK AROUND MY BLOG?
You’ll get to read and access:
Expert tips for exploring destinations in the Caribbean, including Belize, through cultural and outdoor adventures
Visual stories that double as travel inspiration for your trip
Top picks in cultural tourism, from women’s cooperatives and community tourism experiences to tips on visiting protected areas
Expert insights on cross-cultural immersion and sensitivity, solo female travel, Caribbean travel and travel writing/blogging
Opinions and updates on important current social and environmental issues in a destination.
WHERE TO START
If you’re new to my blog, consider starting with my collection of best Stories – ranging from adventure to cultural experiences around the Caribbean and Central America.
GETTING IN TOUCH
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Thanks for being here. I’m excited to share ways to culturally immerse in places, to connect with communities around the world and to positively impact one another.
= in the ancient Ge’ez (Ethiopian) language – it means “someone who is a thinker”